I have been learning about varieties of flowers for as long as I can remember. Wherever I go, what naturally catch es my eye first are the plants, around. As usual, there is always a story behind my new discoveries. Maybe I need to mention that the sweet peas I am writing about are flowers, not food, which was my first assumption when I got to know about them. It was almost the end of a harsh winter in England and the beginning of spring when I visited my cousin. Her house had a wire fence and it was what was growing up the fence that always reminded me of these flowers as we approached winter. They had beautiful colours of pink, red, purple and white. I spent some time before entering the house, just strolling along the fence touching and smelling these beauties.
farm & garden with Doreen Badze
I had seen sweet peas in some homes and garden magazines before. My cousin who understands my love for flowers, and a serious gardener herself, came to brief me and to show off what was in her garden. She described the sweet pea plants as God-given since they resurfaced year after year. I was amazed because the little I knew about these plants was that they were annuals. The more she explained, the more I got curious. I have since learnt a lot about sweet peas. Last winter my neighbour across the street had potted ones with a sweet smell that is unforgettable. Just like edible peas, sweet peas are cool weather plants even though there are some varieties emerging that seem to resist heat.
There are many varieties of sweet peas. These include annuals and perennials. Annuals are more common and will soon be available in some nurseries. Regardless of what you choose, the sweet peas guarantee brightness and fragrant plants in your garden. Some come as dwarfs good for pots, while most of them require trellising. Different varieties have different heights they can reach. Sweet peas can grow from as tall as 2m to 3m. All kinds of trellising can be used, even existing shrubs can hold them up enough to display their beautiful blooms. Similar to vegetables, some come as hybrids as well as heirlooms.
Besides buying seedlings, if they seeds are available, they can easily be sown in trays at home. For easier and faster germination, they can be soaked in tepid water overnight and sown in seedling medium in tray or small pots.
Germination takes from seven days to two weeks. When they grow long and leggy, it is best to cut down to encourage bushy stronger seedlings. It is important to harden them before planting outside of a protected environment.
Sweet peas are heavy feeders. An older lady in my garden club who has grown them for years once gave me a lesson.
She mentioned that her trick was in preparation of her sweet pea beds and that involved digging trenches about a metre deep and literally filling them with aged compost and mixing with soil. She then went onto say once the plants start growing in soil with plenty manure, you then just sit back and watch them beautifully climbing and giving healthy long-lasting blooms. The flowers can be picked for bouquets more often to discourage seeding.
However, the soil needs to be kept moist and if extra feeding is needed, it has to be more of potash than nitrogen that will encourage top growing at the expense of flowers. Watering is only needed when soil is dry, and when well-mulched there is no frequent drying.
For new gardeners, it is worth trying sweet peas this winter. I guarantee you, it will be an experience you will want to repeat year after year. Also, it is worth trying the dwarf ones as well as the climbers to experience both choices.
Available seedlings in our nursery are as follows; rape hobson, lettuce commander, green pepper, king onion, tsunga paida, rodade tomato, tengeru and broccoli.
Happy farming and gardening week!
Doreen Mutobaya Badze is a retired nurse and passion driven gardener. She can be reached on Cell: 0779 730 880 or 16 Metcalf Road, Greendale, Harare. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook Page: Badze Garden Nursery